Most dentists keep their patient’s well-being foremost in their minds. In my experience, they are some of the most competent, compassionate and caring individuals in the health care field. Dentists who work with McKenzie Management are focused on high quality care in a happy, productive atmosphere. They number in the thousands.
We know, however, that every workplace provides opportunities for success and failure. We create some of these opportunities by the way we approach the work that we do. Office circumstances can also dictate how many successes or failures come our way. As hygienists, we work in an environment where we function somewhere in the middle of an office hierarchy. We work primarily alone, but many times we rely on others in the practice for our daily schedule of patients. We provide treatment and screening, but we rely on the dentist for the “last word” on patient recommendations. We have control over how we approach our patients and the amount of time we devote to each segment of their appointments, but we lack the ability to stay on time if the dentist is busy and exams are delayed. We watch the clock constantly, but are keenly aware that each patient deserves our full attention and care.
The good news is that most of the time we are able to juggle all of these factors successfully. We work in offices where others on the dental team are working with us to make the practice run smoothly. We respect our dentists and co-workers and value everything they do to take care of patients and make sure they get the treatment they need and deserve. We also try to do our share in being “part of the solution and not part of the problem.” We accept that some conflicts may arise, but understand that many of these conflicts are within the realm of being handled with good faith adjustments and a focus on providing proper patient treatment.
The bad news is that in some offices, serious conflicts can make providing proper dental care extremely difficult. An experienced dental hygienist contacted me recently with a story of such conflicts. She was wondering what, if anything, she could do about her situation or if she should simply leave the practice.
Conflict #1: Pre-Medication
The hygienist talked with the dentist and told him about this patient. She wanted to reschedule him. The dentist told her to treat him today. Because she felt she could not do this in good conscience, she left the office, went across the street to another dentist’s practice, and “borrowed” the proper pre-medication to give to the patient. She then had the patient wait in the reception room for an hour, and completed his appointment during her lunch break. The dentist was very upset that she had ignored his direction and an unpleasant argument ensued. She felt that since she knew from her training that a prophy might cause a bacterial shower that could affect the patient’s joint replacement, and also that the patient’s physician had recommended pre-medication, she had to either reschedule or arrange for a pre-med today. She also knew that she had overstepped the bounds of her legal duties by providing an antibiotic without the dentist knowing.
Conflict #2: Full Mouth Probing
Luckily, serious conflicts such as the ones described are not common. This dentist is an outlier. The hygienist risked her license by providing an antibiotic and should not be placed in this position again. Being berated for showing concern for patient comfort is also wrong. My advice to her was to begin looking for new employment right away. When conflicts arise that go against a person’s knowledge of proper dental practice or concerned dental care, it means a change in employment should be considered.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email email@example.com.
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